Donna Rogers, author of The Gambler His Wife And His God, explains why she believes Christians shouldn't gamble.
My unguarded, immediate answer to the question "should Christians gamble?" is "no". My husband was a compulsive gambler. I experienced first hand the damage that gambling can cause to the addict and those around them. In 2005 the Labour government liberalized the gambling industry. Since that time gambling has become endemic in this country. For every problem gambler six other people are harmed by the break up of families, crime, eviction, unemployment mental illness.
Today we can add to that list the growing numbers of death by suicide. Suicide especially amongst young men is rising year on year as a result of gambling debt. Gambling With Lives supports families who have lost a loved one. They estimate that more than 490 suicides caused by the shame and the helplessness of their addiction are recorded every year. Put simply gambling involves risking something of value for the chance of winning more than was risked. For some that can be their wellbeing or even their life.
It's estimated that more than 490 suicides in the UK each year are caused by the shame and the helplessness of gambling addiction.
Does that mean that Christians should avoid gambling? Does a flutter on the Grand National make you an addict? What about the church fete? Does the Bible really say that gambling is forbidden? Gambling directly appeals to greed and covetous behaviour. The apostle Paul in Colossians 3:5 calls such behaviour idolatry. The 10th Commandment says: “Thou shall not covet…” Jesus himself warned against having a love of money and get rich quick schemes (Luke 12:16-21). While 1 Timothy 9-10 states that people who want to get rich fall into temptation, and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunges them into ruin and destruction.
If our time and our money were our own you could say: “Gamble all you please it’s your own business.” But to gamble with money and possessions which are not our own is a different matter. As Christians we believe that all we have, including our very selves, belongs to God and to risk what belongs to him would be foolish in the extreme.
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The National Lottery is state sanctioned legalized gambling. It tempts people to play by promising that we are helping “good causes” by doing so. It sounds like a charitable thing to do. However predominantly poor or low-income households bet on the lottery and the Lottery Commission graciously gives a percentage back to various charities chosen by themselves. At its heart it promotes greed and false hope at the expense of the poorest in our society.
Bingo is being relentlessly advertised and targeted at women with pink, fun TV adverts. "The big night out." We are not shown the women addicted to the slot machines in every bingo hall, or the women who become addicted quietly at home on their smartphone or tablet.
The glossy adverts don't show the women addicted to the slot machines in every bingo hall.
Football advertising is massive and targets young people especially. Problem gambling is such a problem in the UK that seven more clinics are being opened to cope with demand. Our smart phones have become portable casinos through which we could potentially lose everything. Meanwhile, the betting industry made 14 billion gross annual profit last year and spends 1.5 billion on advertising.
Am I advocating that Christians should shun gambling altogether? That’s for you to prayerfully consider. Remember we are in the world and not of it. We are called to be lights in the darkness and to set an example for others. As Christians we are responsible before God to use resources wisely. The “love” of money is still the root of all kinds of evil.
Donna Rogers is the author of The Gambler His Wife And His God available to buy here.
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